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Is Streaming in Fantasy Baseball a Good Idea?

Normally on Sunday, I take a look at some two-start fantasy waiver wire pitchers in my weekly Dixon’s Picks column. The All-Star break always makes both last Sunday and this one a little complicated, so Dixon’s Picks will have to wait until next Sunday to return.

Instead, what I’d like to do today is look at streaming in general, going over the benefits, drawbacks, risks, rewards, etc.

Obviously, Dixon’s Picks is for streamers. So, since fantasy baseball always comes down to numbers, why don’t we start there? If you have taken every recommendation I’ve made this year, this is the kind of production you’ve received.

Dixon's Picks: 2014 Season Totals

IP
H
BB
ER
K
W-L
ERA
WHIP
334.231510112923921-153.471.24

If you’re more of a ratio guy, this is what those numbers look like.

Dixon's Picks: 2014 Ratios

IP
H/9
BB/9
K/9
ERA
WHIP
334.28.52.76.43.471.24

Obviously, no one starting pitcher has accrued anywhere that many innings. But when you adjust the numbers, the first half streaming stats are about on par with Mike Leake. But he’s a waiver wire guy, available in more leagues than he’s owned in. The numbers actually are actually much better than what Justin Verlander has done this year and while the K/9 is much better, they’re about on par with Madison Bumgarner.

If you want to try to get a more comparable inning count, compare the streaming stats to what we’ve seen from James Shields, Matt Garza, and Jered Weaver, who are all owned in the vast majority of fantasy leagues.

Copy of Dixon's Picks: 2014 Season Totals

 
IP
H
BB
ER
K
W-L
ERA
WHIP
Dixon's Picks334.231510112923921-153.471.24
James Shields130.213927531109-53.651.27
Matt Garza124.11093851936-63.691.18
Jered Weaver125.110636489610-63.451.13
Total380.135410115229925-173.601.20

But the Bumgarner comparison actually makes some sense. If you do stream well, you can produce a comparable ERA and WHIP to some highly-drafted starters who may not be having the best seasons and produce far better counted stats.

Dixon's Picks vs. Madison Bumgarner

 
IP
H
BB
ER
K
W-L
ERA
WHIP
Dixon's Picks334.231510112923921-153.471.24
Bumgarner127127324912810-73.471.25

Then, you could use the pick that you would have used on someone like Bumgarner on a hitter. Remember, the merits of streaming can be debated for pitching, but there’s no way it will ever work for pitchers.

Seeing all of this, streaming looks like it can’t fail, right? Well, plenty of fantasy players loathe the strategy, but we won’t even go there. There are strategical drawbacks.

 

1. It’s a Gamble

Everything is a gamble to some degree. But while one of the benefits of streaming is that it gives you something of a leg up on some surprise pitchers that go on to have great years, you need to realize that you’re dealing with waiver wire pitchers. Generally speaking, pitchers on the waiver wire are there for a reason. That’s always something to keep in mind.

 

2. It Won’t Simulate Star Production

I listed a lot of guys that are owned in most — or all — fantasy leagues, but none are having what you’d call great seasons. If you’re hoping to stream and get a season that someone like Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, Felix Hernandez, or Yu Darvish is having, forget it — it’s just not happening.

See, while I have 100 percent confidence in my streaming ability, I don’t think I could have done much better through the first half. Actually, I produced very similar numbers in 2013. If you’ve read enough, you can certainly point out some bad starts that I advised or good starts that I missed, but that’s the point. Over time, that’s going to happen when you’re dealing with waiver wire guys.

The numbers are good, but those ERA and WHIP totals will get you somewhere around the middle of the road in your fantasy leagues. You need to have a big name or two anchoring things down.

 

3. It’s Only Practical in Some Leagues

I guess this depends on how much you want to stream but, it’s severely limited in a few cases.

  • Leagues with transaction limits
  • Leagues with innings maxes

If you’re in a league that uses non conventional stats, it’s also got some risks. Now, if your league counts quality starts instead of wins, streaming is more of a sound strategy as generally speaking, you’re streaming in pitchers against bad offenses. But if you’re in a league that counts something like walks issued, the strategy becomes far less effective.

Also, if you’re in a league that has a roster lock at the beginning of the week, it becomes much tougher, especially if you’re bringing in guys that pitch in potentially bad weather spots. Those starts get bumped back or worse, cut short.

 

So, to answer the original question: Is streaming a good idea?

In weekly leagues, not so much. There, you face the real possibility of having a bad start or two and having to punt categories — namely ERA and WHIP. In a standard 5×5 league, four of the pitching categories are for starters so loading up on innings to get wins/quality starts and strikeouts while punting ERA and WHIP seems like a wash.

If you have good closers and/or a killer offense, it makes more sense. If you have another pitching category for starters, it makes more sense.

But in standard leagues, you have to be very smart and conservative about streaming, if you do so at all.

In leagues where all of the numbers go into the pile and are added up at the end of the year, it’s a better idea. There, you can hopefully absorb a few clunker starts that you gambled on, assuming you have an otherwise competent rotation.

It’s not a bad idea to bolster your rotation with streaming, but caution is always a must. You should always be looking at where you stand, seeing what you need and what you can risk. More importantly, what you don’t need and what you can’t risk. If you do that and keep a constant grasp on your team and league, then streaming is a fine strategy.

 

Note: All numbers shown here are through the All-Star Break in 2014. Any appearances in the first games of the second half were not considered. 

 

Tags: Fantasy Free Agents MLB Streaming Waiver Wire Pitchers

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